There are so many pictures of cats and dogs being cuddled and loved by Ukraine army personnel that a wise person has created a Twitter account to show them off. It’s doing very well with about 15.2k followers at the moment. That’s good in a very short timeframe. And it is no surprise to me that there are thousands of followers and lots of photographs. Ukrainian troops have opened their hearts to stray pets. These are probably abandoned cats and dogs. We see more dogs with Ukrainian troops because there are more men than women in the Ukrainian army, and men generally prefer dogs. That is not always the case because you will also see some fantastic photographs of Ukrainian military men enjoying the company of a stray cat and vice versa.
Perhaps unbeknownst to the brave Ukrainian soldiers is the fact that cats and dogs can be great therapy animals. They can treat people with PTSD for example. And they don’t have to be specialist therapy animals to do this.
I suspect that what we are seeing here in these photographs is both male and female soldiers employing some self-help in treating themselves with a bit of animal therapy. We know that cats are calming both by their presence and their purr. We know that having a dog by your side creates a sense of security and well-being.
We also know that some Ukrainian soldiers are relying on their dogs to sense when there’s danger around through their superior hearing and sense of smell. So, the dogs can be both working dogs and therapy dogs.
In between fighting, which must be terrifying even to experienced military personnel and particularly so to volunteers who signed up, there will be lulls in the fighting when they can try and unwind and prepare themselves for the next battle. The presence of a cat or dog helps in this process.
I’ve focused in the first part of this article on the military personnel who need all the help they can get. They are the un-named heroes in this fight of good against evil.
But let’s turn to the animals. Many companion animals have been taken by refugees to Poland and other adjacent countries; safe havens where they can start their life again. Many will return to Ukraine but some never well. It must have been a big struggle to get their companion animals to where they were going.
But sadly, many to have been left behind, abandoned because it was too hard to bring them. There was one lady who couldn’t bring one of her two dogs because he refused to move. He was too scared; terrified by the noises and the destruction.
Let’s think about that: how it feels for abandoned cats and dogs. We know that noise frightens the majority of cats and dogs. Firework displays can terrify companion animals. Firework displays pale into insignificance in comparison to cruise missiles, shelling and air to surface missiles pounding into apartment blocks. This is what these animals have had to put up with.
They need therapy too. In many instances, they will be traumatised. They need the friendship and the reassurance that a tender human companion can provide.
So, in these photographs we also see cats and dogs getting their dose of therapy from kind-hearted Ukrainian army personnel.
I have to contrast this with the Russian troops who are behaving more brutally as the days go by and as they begin to lose the battles and retreat in some areas. The Times newspaper reports that retreating Russian troops are killing civilians in alleged war crimes and putting mines in their bodies. And the civilians include children. And there’s no doubt in my mind that they take the odd potshot at an animal and probably eat it afterwards because they were provided with three days of rations when they invaded Ukraine.
They’ve been stealing from any source they can find including supermarkets and homes to feed themselves. And it has been reported that they have shot and killed companion animals for their next meal.
It is the vulnerable and innocent who suffer the most in these conflicts. It is a terrible indictment on humankind.